Bug Out Bags for Beginners: 10 Essentials You Need to Include

Bug Out Bags for Beginners: 10 Essentials You Need to Include

So, you want the best bug out bag you can get. But you're kind of new at this and feel a little overwhelmed.

The one question ringing about your brain is: where do you start with a bug out bag?

A lot of sites out there offer itemized lists for bug out bags. Yet the lists range from 20 to 100 necessary pieces of gear you should carry. Such lists can lead to confusion regarding gear and the point of a bug out bag.

Rather than create another list of items, this post will look at bug out bags by survival priorities. By following survival priorities, you remove the confusion about what to pack. Done right, the bug out bag will increase your chances of survival. 

Let’s begin with choosing the bag.

Choosing A Bag

With the number of packs out there the choices are overwhelming. To narrow down those choices look at these 3 qualities: 

  • Ruggedness: Look for heavy duty material, durable zippers and pockets. You don’t want a bag that falls apart in the field.
  • Size: You want something that’s not too small or too big, think middle of the road. Your bug out bag should last you about 72 hours; it’s not for the long haul in surviving.
  • Style: Think camouflage, the art of blending in. What type of environment will you be in? Do you want to blend in with an urban setting or the outdoors? A plain, nondescript pack will serve best for urban settings. Whereas a tactical camo pack is fine for the country or outdoors. Consider the type of impression you want to give. 

This works for buying a premade bag or building your own. 

The 4 Necessities of Surviving (By Priority)


Exposure to the elements is the number one reason people perish outdoors. Finding shelter is your first priority. To combat exposure it’s all about staying warm and out of the weather. 

Try to keep it simple and carry a lightweight tent. Other options to consider are tarps, hammocks, or tarp tents (though kind of bulky and heavy). Each has pros and cons, so research and choose one that fits your needs.


Water is your second priority. Some premade bags might contain emergency water pouches, which is fine. You’ll also want an extra water bottle or container. Water filters, life straws, and purification tablets provide the means for obtaining clean water. A camelback is okay to include, remember every ounce matters, and water weight adds up.

Fire (Staying warm)

This is your third priority. Put together a small fire starting kit, with at least three ways to build a fire. For example a fire kit might have waterproof matches, lighters, and a ferro rod. Include accelerants such as vaseline cotton balls, magnesium shavings, or solid fuel tablets. For extra warmth pack an emergency blanket and hand warmers. 


Space is limited in your bug out bag. Remember you can go a few weeks without food. Granted it’ll be uncomfortable, but you can get by, which is why food is your fourth priority. 

High-calorie food is best and will sustain you longer. Things like protein bars, granola bars, even an MRE or a backpacking freeze dried meal is great for a 72 hour bag. Tuna packs, spam packs, peanut butter and jerky are also lightweight alternatives.

The Rest of the Essentials (Not in order of Importance)

First Aid

Start with a first aid kit and go from there. Include other items like a tourniquet, combat gauze, a military compress, and a splint. If you're prepared with the right gear you’ll have the ability and confidence to treat a serious injury.


Your environment and season will play a part in clothing choice. Bugging out in winter will be a lot different than summer. Think about wearing clothes in layers. Choose clothing that is lightweight, can repel water, adds a layer of warmth, and dries quickly. Avoid cotton as it doesn’t insulate well and takes time to dry. Store clothing in a ziplock bag or space saver bag, compressing the air out to reduce bulk.


When you’re dirty and tired and weak from lack of energy, your body has a harder time fighting off infection. Cleanliness will prevent the spread of bacteria and disease. Create a hygiene kit with some quality wipes, toothpaste and brush, soap, bacterial ointment, and a little TP.


No matter what the situation, the tools you pack will serve a multitude of uses, from wire cutting to shelter construction and more. You’ll want a small variety of tools in your pack. 


At the minimum carry a fixed blade knife, a pocket knife, and a good multitool. A folding saw or hatchet is worth considering but not a necessity.

Self Defense

With large-scale disasters there are those who will take advantage of terrible conditions. The fog of confusion and chaos presents opportunities for looting, robbing and preying on those in a weakened state.

 Firearms are the best deterrent to becoming a victim. Carrying a concealed and compact pistol adds a sense of security like nothing else. If you choose to carry a firearm, train with it, become familiar with its feel and action. 

For those sensitive about carrying a pistol, a can of pepper spray is an option. Of course, you can choose to carry both lethal and non-lethal forms of self-defense. Either way, don’t neglect the need for protection.

Light and Communication

Working in the dark is frustrating, to say the least. So, keep some light sticks, flashlight, and headlamp handy. Another useful item is NOAA AM/FM radio. Information updates are crucial in helping you plan and decide on your next course of action.


Here are a few extra items worth considering since they can be quite handy:

  • Duct tape and paracord
  • Compass or five in one survival whistle
  • Cash and barter items
  • Small sleeping bag

If you are new to bug out bags, remember, don’t get caught up with creating the perfect bag; it doesn’t exist. A premade bug out bag is a great place to start, and you can still add to it and personalize it to suit your needs.

Don’t wait for something to happen before you decide it’s time for a bug out bag. By then it might be too late. Take action now. Prepare your own bug out bag.

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